By Matthew Evans @tenorman85 on March 18, 2014
The brackets have been revealed and we know what the road to the national championship looks like for all 68 teams. To get you ready for tip-off on Tuesday, here is a list of the top 25 teams in this year’s tournament field. The ranking formula used was calculated by adding up the winning or losing percentage of a team’s opponents and multiplying it by their strength-of-schedule decimal. The site of the games were taken into account as well.
Massachusetts was lifted into the Top 25 with two very quality road wins over George Washington and Ohio, as well as some key neutral site wins over BYU and New Mexico. It could have finished a few sports higher if it had not lost to 11-20 George Mason at home, a loss which set them back .710 points.
The Buckeyes finished the season with wins over six teams that advanced to the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, only one of those wins came away from Columbus (at Wisconsin). Ohio State will surely be kicking itself for losing twice to Penn State, which is one of the reasons why it is only a No. 6 seed.
Saint Louis really only had one bad loss this season at home to Duquesne. The thing that held the Billikens back was their weak non-conference schedule with opponents like North Carolina A&T, Bowling Green and SIU-Edwardsville. They did register road wins at Massachusetts, Saint Joseph’s and Dayton, all NCAA tournament teams.
Four of Gonzaga’s six losses came to teams in the NCAA tournament field (Memphis, BYU, Dayton and Kansas State). Gonzaga did not schedule as many big-time non-conference games this year, but it was not hurt too badly with the West Coast Conference producing three other 20-win teams this season.
The Wildcats finished with the second-strongest strength of schedule among the teams that made the NCAA tournament, though they did play and lose to Florida three times. They also struggled on the road like Ohio State, losing eight of their 10 games in true road games or on neutral floors. Their best win was against Louisville at home.
The Huskies made the most of the hand they were dealt this season with numerous key victories. They were one of two teams to beat Florida, one of four to beat Harvard, and they won a combined five times over Cincinnati and Memphis. On the downside for the Huskies, they did lose all three meetings to Louisville. One win from that series could have bumped UConn into the top 10.
Virginia Commonwealth is becoming what Gonzaga was back in the early 2000s. The Rams are not afraid to play anybody anywhere to prove how good they really are. This season was no different as VCU scored huge road victories at Virginia, Belmont and Dayton. Where the Rams earned their seed though was in their home wins. They defended their turf against tournament teams Saint Louis, George Washington, Eastern Kentucky and Wofford.
The Big Ten tournament champions should finish higher than No. 18 in these rankings, but they had an overall weak home slate in the non-conference schedule. Wins over McNeese State, New Orleans, Portland and North Florida are not ones to hang your hat on, especially with a not-so-good looking loss to Illinois on your resume. The Spartans did beat Texas away along with Oklahoma and Kentucky on neutral floors.
The Orangemen were having a magical season with multiple buzzer-beaters to keep their unbeaten start going. It all came crashing down with a loss to 8-24 Boston College at the Carrier Dome. The Orange has lost five of their last seven games, and will need to figure things out quickly if they want to avoid an upset from David Brown and Western Michigan.
It seems as though Iowa State has finally broken into the national picture in college basketball. The Cyclones have been close over the past few seasons, but they really made a mark this year with wins over Kansas in the Big 12 tournament, Michigan and Oklahoma at home, as well as BYU on the road. A big test looms in the third round with a possible matchup against North Carolina.
Nobody was sure how the transition to the Big East would affect Creighton. The Bluejays came out and nearly won their first tournament title. They made a big impact, sweeping the season series with Villanova, handing Nova half of their four losses. Two of Creighton’s losses this season came on neutral floors to San Diego State and George Washington.
The Bruins are a very interesting team in the sense that at times, they seem to play to the level of their opponent. Their best wins have come on the road against Oregon, Colorado and in the Pac-12 championship game against Arizona. Their two worst losses though they came on the road to bottom-half Oregon State and Washington State. Who knows which Bruins team will show up in the NCAA tourney.
One of the things that jumped out about the brackets was the uncertainty in seeding the teams from the AAC. Cincinnati is the most dangerous of the No. 5 seeds; the Bearcats have wins over eight different teams that finished the season with 20 wins, including a win in Louisville.
The Aztecs should be higher than this, but some very weak non-conference opponents really brought them down. Southern Utah, UC Riverside and McNeese State all made the trip to San Diego. The three combined netted the Aztecs nearly seven-tenths of a point. They did have some great wins away to Kansas and over Creighton on a neutral floor, but they need some better quality than what they had on the low end of the schedule.
The Wolverines had some amazing road wins in conference this season at Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Nebraska, but their non-conference home slate really disappointed. They did host Arizona, whom they lost to, but look at some of their home wins; Coppin State, Massachusetts-Lowell, South Carolina State and Houston Baptist. Michigan’s best non-conference home win was over a 19-13 Holy Cross.
The most talk on Sunday concerned the seeding of Louisville. The Cardinals are 29-5, won their conference tournament and were yet seeded fourth in the Midwest Region. The Big East split has hurt these teams more than their current “Big East” counterparts. Louisville had a road win over Cincinnati and swept both Connecticut and SMU. Those three teams combined for 76 wins this season.
The Blue Devils had a top-five strength-of-schedule mark among the teams who made the NCAA tournament. This helped boost them into the top 10 of these rankings combined with big wins over Pittsburgh, UCLA, Syracuse, Virginia, Michigan and North Carolina. Should Duke make the Sweet 16, they have a potential rematch with Michigan in the cards.
When it comes to the Lobos being ranked as high as they are, it comes down to one basic principle: they really did not have a “bad loss.” All six of their losses came against 20-win teams. When you include those with two wins over San Diego State, a home win of Cincinnati and road wins over New Mexico State and UNLV, it makes for a good ranking.
The Wildcats would have been a lock for a No. 1 seed had they not lost in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament to Seton Hall. Their resume looks fantastic with their five best wins all coming on the road or on neutral floors, including a win over Kansas. They also boasted two solid non-conference home wins over Delaware and Towson.
The unbalanced ACC conference schedule surely favored the Cavaliers this season as they only matched up with Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and Pittsburgh once during the regular season. They took advantage, winning the regular season and conference tournaments. Getting past the second round should not be a problem, but things could get bumpy with Memphis and Michigan State potentially ahead.
The Badgers has six marquee wins on their resume: road wins over Virginia, Green Bay and Michigan, home wins over Florida and Michigan State and a neutral floor victory over Saint Louis. They would have been ranked higher without their home loss to 14-19 Northwestern.
The Jayhawks had the toughest strength-of-schedule of all the teams who made the NCAA tournament. Their opponents combined for a record of 705-369, or a winning percentage of 65.6. The Jayhawks won 16 games over teams with 20 or more wins this season.
The Shockers are the only unbeaten team left, so you’d think that they should be on top the list. The problem was the bottom half of their conference. Two games each against Loyola-Illinois, Evansville, Bradley, Drake and Southern Illinois really hurt the Shockers in this case. They did have a big win at Saint Louis, but it wasn’t enough to put them in the top spot.
What makes the Wildcats dangerous going into the tournament is not their road wins at San Diego State, UCLA and Michigan, or the neutral site win over Duke. It is the bitter taste in their mouths after losing in the Pac-12 title game to UCLA this past weekend. The 30-win Wildcats will have an interesting third-round matchup with either Gonzaga or Oklahoma State this weekend.
The Florida Gators are the best team in the country right now. They are primed for a national championship run after playing second fiddle to Kentucky. This Gators team showed just how for real they are when they completed the three-game sweep of Kentucky in the SEC championship game. Their only potential roadblock to the Final Four is Kansas, and what a game that would be between these two.
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